If you’ve ever been on Drexel’s campus in the summer, chances are you’ve seen new student orientation. It’s hard to miss the #NSO signs plastered across campus, the crowds sitting on the grass at Buckley Field or the hundreds of teenagers strolling the sidewalks.
But you’ve never seen a new student veterans orientation before, until now.
“We’re creating a program where there’s an orientation specific to veterans that will help students who just came in from the military assimilate,” said Drexel Veterans Association Vice President Chris Diaz, a Navy veteran and senior psychology major in the College of Arts and Sciences. “It will make it easier for veterans when they come to Drexel in the fall.”
Veterans orientation, which was held on Aug. 9, is just one of many new initiatives by the Drexel Veterans Association. With new student leadership and a new adviser, the organization is ready for action this school year with a clear vision to provide a better support system for the hundreds of veterans at Drexel.
“The DVA is really here to serve the vets,” Tina Heuges, the new DVA adviser, said. “It’s for relationship building and networking, but in a very different way from standard student organizations.”
Heuges, the director of transfer and part-time admissions in the Undergraduate Admissions office, had experience working with Drexel’s Veterans Task Force & Supporters, a group of professional staff members across all sectors of the Drexel community that provide support for veterans and alumni. Heuges decided to work with the DVA because she wanted to better serve the veterans she became familiar with while renewing their files and transcripts for their admittance to Drexel.
Rebecca Weidensaul, associate dean of students, had informally advised the group since February 2011, about a year after the DVA launched with the opening of the Office of Veteran Student Services at Drexel. “The best circumstances are when we have current student-veterans working in tandem with alumni veterans and our administration,” Weidensaul said.
The new leaders have “a vision that aligns really well with the work of the Office of Veteran Student Services and the veterans task force,” Weidensaul said.
Heuges said 10 new people showed up to the past two meetings, which is an encouraging sign for the future of the DVA.
“We’re working on it. It’s slow-going, but I think by the end of the year we’ll double enrollment,” she said.
The organization will need the extra volunteers for the activities and events it hopes to implement during the school year.
Recently, the club became a Drexel chapter for SALUTE, the first national honor society established for student veterans and military in two- and four-year higher education institutions. The Drexel chapter awards honors society verifications as well as a four-tier GPA ranking system for its members.
Next up on the agenda: The organization is working to provide extra amenities in the Drexel University Veterans Lounge, which opened on Veteran’s Day 2011 and is located in the Armory. The group received a donated computer that will be installed soon, and is looking to add lockers and a refrigerator to the space.
Drexel has a longstanding reputation for its military and veteran programs and was named a “Military Friendly School” for the fourth year in a row in 2012 by G.I. Jobs, a premier media outlet for “military-transitioners.” Drexel is ranked in the top 15 percent of institutions that best embrace America’s veterans—and that focus is well served by a strong DVA.